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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stumbling Blocks

After so much success with prototypes and so many things working out with the team, it was inevitable some challenges would happen for the team soon. Unfortunately on Saturday, we ran into (literally) a big challenge: the bump in the middle of the field. We spent the past two days working on a wheel system that would get us over the bump and it didn't work. We also started working on vision processing (for finding the hoops) and an arm to push the bridge down so we can drive over it. Luckily, those went a little bit better.

First off, there are a couple visual changes to the blog. You probably noticed the new header visual (thanks Jenna). We will also be adding the Team Members page and a page describing our team and the mission of FIRST in the coming week or so. So look out for those.

In case you didn't know, the field for our competition is divided into two halves. Dividing these halves is a 4" tall by 6" wide bump and 3 bridges. Traversing these obstacles is essential to playing the game. Brandon, Ryan, and Tyler worked their butts off making a system to lower the bridge the past two days. It is really sweet! It's an arm with an angle piece coming down. It will rest on a platform with an L shaped plastic piece that is connected to a spring. At the beginning of the match, we will drop the arm and the spring loaded L shaped piece will keep the arm down during the match. I will upload some pictures on Monday which will make it easier to see. We haven't tested it yet (gulp) but we will do that on Monday. It looks awesome and it follows the big rule of KISS (keep it simple stupid).

The major project we worked on though was the wheel system. On Friday, we took the whole bot apart and started changing the wheels. We had to drop our wheels down so that the frame could fit over the bump. This is a much bigger task than it sounds. It requires cutting and drilling new axle holes in 12 pieces of extrusion. Then we had to put new chains on each gearbox and make new spacers for each wheel. This is a LONG process that we spent literally 9 hours on Saturday working on. Bryce's dad came and helped get the chains and spacers ready which was really nice. So we were feeling really good after getting the entire robot back together and the wheels on and working. Until... we tested it. There is a YouTube video up of the test. We were all so tired that you can't really tell how disappointing it was. However, the team is resilient and will think of another mechanism to go over the bump. No worries.

Colin and Megan worked on getting the image processing for the camera going. The LabView programming has the power to recognize shapes and colors including the metal rectangles behind the hoops. This will allow us to program the robot to find the hoops and aim for us. 

Our energy was still really low after working for so long during the week. Plus, the team members are still students and involved in many other things (including work and church and speech and homework). They're commitment is incredible and inspiring. We are half done! That's both awesome and scary. The challenges presented to us will be overcome though.We ended the night by playing some Rock Band to relieve stress.

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